- Game Preview
- Ron Brocato
- October 31, 2013 - 4:02pm
The last time Holy Cross defeated Archbishop Rummel on the football field many of the players for both schools hadn’t yet been born.
The Tigers drought against the Raiders goes back to 1995 when they bested Rummel, 35-20. Since that time, Holy Cross has lost 13 consecutive games to the team coached by Jay Roth.
But that could change Saturday night at Joe Yenni Stadium when coach Barry Wilson brings his veteran Tiger team onto the Metairie playing field to face its District 9-5A rival at 7 o’clock.
Holy Cross is playing at the top of its game, taking district leader St. Augustine down to the wire last week before losing, 33-30. Rummel pulled off a hard-fought 24-21 victory over Jesuit on a field goal in overtime.
Unless Shaw (4-4, 0-3) or Jesuit (4-4, 1-2) can spring an upset against overly talented St. Aug, Holy Cross and Rummel will be playing for second place in the Catholic League. The Raiders lead the series, 31-12.
Although the Raiders captured the 2012 Class 5A state championship, they are a team trying to bounce back from some key injuries and disappointing defeats. Holy Cross has also had its share of physical setbacks. Yet both have been able to overcome their physical ills to have outstanding seasons.
Before losing to St. Augustine, Holy Cross had won seven consecutive games and stands 2-1 in Catholic League play. And although the Raiders carry a 5-3 record and are also 2-1 in league standings, they have yet to play a team with a losing record. So they battled all season, and prevailed more often than not, with a target on their backs as the reigning champion.
This matchup should be a study of contrasts: Holy Cross has one of the most prolific passers in the district in James Tabary. The rangy, 6-3 senior is the league’s top passer, having completed 120 of 194 throws for 1,592 and 12 touchdowns. His arm nearly brought down the Purple Knights last week.
“You can’t get to (Tabary) because he has such a quick release on his passes,” noted Roth, who has charged his defense to stop the Tigers’ all-out offensive.
Rummel’s young quarterback, Chase Fourcade, is a star of the future who hasn’t had the opportunity to serve an apprenticeship. And although the sophomore is an on-the-job trainee, he has settled in as the offensive leader more comfortably each week. But the Raiders’ offense is ground oriented.
“Rummel likes to pound you on offense and they can do it,” Wilson observed of his opponent. “But Foucade throws the ball well enough to keep the offense moving.”
The son of former tight end Keith Fourcade and nephew of ex-Saint John, Fourcade ranks No. 4 among the six starting Catholic League quarterbacks in passing yardage with 958 yards. He has completed 56 percent of his throws and has passed for eight touchdowns.
This may be a battle for the “bridesmaid” position in the district, but Wilson has a loftier goal – a rematch with St. Augustine.
“That’s the whole idea,” he said. “We will be in good position if we win out (the final two games) and keep a high power ranking. It would be great to play them in the (Mercedes Benz Super) Dome before a huge crowd.”
But the task at hand for the Tigers is to get past a resurgent Raiders squad that is not used to losing. Since his arrival as the head coach in 1995 (the last time the Tigers won a game in this series), Roth’s teams have captured 10 district titles.
“Rummel is used to winning and they play with that kind of intensity,” Wilson said. “They are real good defensively up front and in the linebacker position and they play to win at any cost.”
Since losing senior running back Keith Fulton to a season-ending foot injury a month ago, diminutive Ivan Phipps has been the featured ball-carrier. Though he stands 5-5, the senior has proven to be a tough stop. He’s gained 687 yards on 135 carries (ranks third in 9-5A).
Holy Cross also lost its top rusher, Todd Spriggins, to an injury. But he has slowly worked himself back into the offense. In his place, sophomore Tre’ Turner has carried the ground attack quite admirably. The 180-pounder ranks fourth in ground yardage with 582 on 84 rushes.
Rummel’s quest to overcome a solid Tiger defense is to be firing the offense on all cylinders in its final home game of the regular season. Holy Cross has talent on the defensive line and in the secondary, and an interesting duel between two of the districts linebackers – Zach Harris of Holy Cross and Rummel’s Matthew Kennedy – should be a highlight reel in itself.
“Barry has been grooming this team for three years on the field and in the weight room” Roth said of his team’s opponent. “We were very impressed with them last week and I thought they were going to beat St. Aug.”
But the Tigers lost and it’s time to move on, Wilson said. “I’m worried that the team may still be thinking about last week. I just want to win the next two and see what happens after that.”
And, of course, end an 18-year losing streak against the Raiders.